Don Nelson gets Hall of Fame call

Updated: March 29, 2012, 10:01 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

Don Nelson, known as a mad scientist throughout his illustrious coaching career for his innovative and unorthodox strategies, especially so in turning around the moribund Dallas Mavericks, will be among this year's class inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nelson, a three-time coach of the year and the NBA's all-time winningest coach, said he got the call Wednesday morning after being snubbed for several years. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will officially announce the 2012 class on Monday at the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans.

"It's a great honor to cap my career," said Nelson, who is involved in several business ventures and splits his time between Dallas and Maui. "I've had a great time and a great life coaching basketball. I don't actually need to be rewarded for anything, but I am very proud and my family is very proud of this award."

Nelson, 71, was left off past classes apparently for one reason -- he lacked a championship ring. He said former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who never won a title while racking up 1,221 wins in 26 seasons -- including 23 with the Jazz -- being inducted in 2009 opened the door.

Nelson's coaching career began in the 1976-77 season, taking over a Milwaukee Bucks team that was 3-15. His coaching career came to a close after four seasons into his second stint with the Golden State Warriors in 2010. In between, Nelson had a long first stint with the Warriors and a brief stay with the New York Knicks before taking over the Mavericks in 1997.

Before getting into coaching, Nelson had a 14-year NBA playing career. He played one season for the Chicago Zephyrs (the franchise that eventually became the Washington Wizards) after they drafted him in 1962. After two years with the Los Angeles Lakers, he had a 10-season run with the Boston Celtics that included five NBA championships. He had a career scoring average of 10.3 points.

Nelson was one of 12 finalists for the class of 2012, along with Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller, five-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, former NBA coach Bill Fitch and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain.

On the ballot again are Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and the All-American Red Heads, known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the first women's professional basketball team.

A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election.

The finalists were announced on Feb. 24. Five direct elections who will serve as the initial 2012 inductees also were announced in February: Mel Daniels, voted in by the American Basketball Association Committee; Don Barksdale from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee; Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee; Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee; and Phil Knight from the Contributors Committee.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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